What’s the shelf life of a clearance sale shirt? What’s the expiry date on a Grindr hookup? Do potatoes count as carbs? If you feel like a potato, are you a carb? Do you need to kick your junk food habits out on the curb (no pun intended)? Are moccasins better than brogues? More importantly, what is a brogue?
When you are gay man, you’ll always be full of questions (when you are not full of self-doubt, that is) — but this is 2018, and some questions, while basic, — will always be more important than the others.
Don’t know whether you are a top or a bottom? Do you feel it’s rude (and very inappropriate) when someone asks you whether you are a slave? Have you always wondered why your friends laughed at you when you said you loved vanilla? Are you surprised that people could be that into otters? More importantly, what is an otter?
It’s 2018, and it’s time for you to get with the times. Whether you are an out-and-proud gay man or an in-the-closet newbie, your dictionary of gay slang will always be as varied as your little black book of boys. So the next time someone tells you they know ‘just the right twink for your daddy charms,’ here’s a little glossary of gay slang to help you understand what they really mean.
Bear: An older, broader hairier man who unlike his namesake, does not need to hibernate.
Beefcake: A gay man who spends most of his time at the gym, and the rest of it scooping spoonfuls of protein supplement into his post-workout shakes.
BJ: A bl*wjob, or when someone wants to make a bl*wjob sound cool.
Bottom: The receptive sexual partner; also known as ‘someone who likes taking it in’.
Buns: Butt or when someone wants to be cute about your butt.
Chubby Chaser: A gay man who likes his sexual partners just like he likes his pillows – soft and cuddly.
C*cksicle: A BJ, again. Or when someone tries to make a bl*wjob sound even cooler, but fails miserably.
Cruise: To seek casual gay sex encounters — usually in restrooms, pubs or sometimes, even by the corner streetlight, so that you can regret them the morning after.
Cub: A younger version of the Bear, heavier than the Otter. May or may not deal with body issues.
Daddy: An older, established man who likes his scotch aged and his boys, young.
Daddy Chaser: A gay man who likes his partners older, richer, but not necessarily wiser.
Discreet: A man who is either in a relationship or in denial, and wants sex on the side.
Dom/Dominant/Master: A gay man who likes to play ‘Who’s the boss?’ in bed. Sexual toys may or may not be involved.
Hershey Highway: When someone wants to make anal sex sound more desirable.
Iron Closet: A gay man who is in such deep denial of his sexuality, he might never step out of the closet.
Kinky: Anything that is not Vanilla sexually, but peach apricot with hazelnuts.
Looking for Networking: A man who travels a lot and is on the lookout for vacation flings. He won’t ever call you back.
NSA: No-strings-attached casual sex, that doesn’t involve feelings or goodbye messages.
Otter: A thinner, younger version of the Bear. Has nothing to do with the animal.
Poz: An out-and-proud HIV Positive man who’s doing what a lot of men out there are not — telling us about his status.
Slam: When someone wants to snort MDMA off your belly button.
Sub/Submissive/Slave: A gay man who likes being bossed around in bed. (Not to be confused with the derogatory term used during the American pre-Civil Rights era.)
The Closet: A place where you keep all your ridiculously expensive clothes, your snug woolens, and yourself, when you are not out to the world. In other words, a gay man who has not told anyone he’s gay.
Tonsil Hockey: When you are kissing someone so fiercely, it could be a competitive sport.
Top: The inserting sexual partner; also known as ‘someone who likes to put it in’.
Vanilla: Someone who likes his sex just like he likes his family values, traditional.
Versatile: A gay man who likes it both ways, but is secretly a bottom.
Wolf: A hairy gay man who’s neither a Bear nor an Otter but floats somewhere in between. Also, may not howl at the moon if you ask him too.
Yestergay: A gay man who now refers to himself as straight. But is not.
Übersicht über die besten Dating-Apps
Sehe auch unsere sublime Übersicht über Partnerbörsen und Singlebörsen.
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Dating Trend : Das Prinzip der Nähe
Vor fünf Jahren wurde in den USA das Dating revolutioniert. Joel Simkhai entwickelte „Grindr“, eine App für Smartphones. Wer ist gerade um die Ecke und will sich treffen? Ein Besuch in L. A.
Wenn Joel Simkhai in sein Büro geht, verkauft er Sex. Oder wie er es sagt: Er bringt Menschen zusammen. Indem er ihnen Bezahlabos oder Werbung anbietet. Für Grindr. Kennen Sie nicht? Dann sind Sie nicht schwul. Trotzdem beeinflusst die Firma – der Name steht für eine Smartphone-Applikation – Ihre Lebenswelt oder die Ihrer Kinder und Enkel. In den vergangenen fünf Jahren hat sich das Dating dank Grindr verändert. Menschen treffen sich nicht mehr nur in Cafés, Bars oder auf Kreuzfahrtschiffen, suchen nicht nur im Internet nach Partnern, plötzlich orten sie andere Singles mit dem Smartphone.
Schwule hat Joel Simkhai über Grindr zusammengebracht, meist für Sex. Heterosexuelle machen es ihnen nun mit der App Tinder nach. Halb Amerika und Deutschland reden darüber. Hast du schon? Willst du mal? Der US-Talkmaster Conan O’Brien hat im Juli für seine Show vor laufender Kamera Tinder ausprobiert. Es führte zwar nicht zu einem Date, aber spätestens seitdem kennt die Welt App-Dating. „Das ist ein bisschen wie Grindr“, erklärte er seinen Zuschauern, als wenn jeder wüsste, wie das auf Grindr so läuft.
Das Prinzip ist einfach: App öffnen, Fotos von Fremden anschauen, Kurznachrichten an sie schreiben, Treffen vereinbaren. LTR? NSA? DTF? Das sind keine Geheimdienste, sondern eingeführte Dating-Abkürzungen: Long Term Relationship (feste Beziehung), No Strings Attached (ohne weitere Verpflichtungen), Down To Fuck (äh, Sex?).
Erfunden hat diese Art des Aufeinandertreffens Joel Simkhai. Der US-Amerikaner mit israelischen Wurzeln hat vor fünf Jahren die erste Dating-App erdacht, die auf GPS-Daten basiert. Sie sortiert mögliche Partner nicht nach gemeinsamen Interessen, wie es Partnerbörsen tun, sondern geht danach, wer sich gerade in der Nähe befindet. Eine simple Idee, einfach zu schauen, wer um die Ecke verfügbar ist: 120 Meter entfernt? Gut. 1,2 Kilometer? Ach nee, zu weit.
Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. In einem viergeschossigen Glasbau, an den Seiten rot angestrichen, sitzt Grindr. Links eine Baumschule, rechts ein Bio-Café, gegenüber ein Hotel, das so heruntergekommen aussieht, dass es auch Kulisse für einen Horrorfilm sein könnte. Hinter der Eingangstür des Großraumbüros, Erdgeschoss, Office 101, schmiegen sich ein Dutzend Bücher aneinander. Es sind Klassiker der Schwulenliteratur, „Geschlossener Kreis“ von Gore Vidal, „Ein einzelner Mann“ von Christopher Isherwood. Knapp 30 Angestellte sitzen an Computern oder tagen in Konferenzräumen, die Castro oder West End heißen – Anspielungen auf Homo-Viertel rund um die Welt. Der Gründer sitzt normalerweise in einem verglasten Büro rechts vom Mini-Regal. Über seinem Büro steht „0 feet away“ – eine Referenz an das Prinzip der Nähe, auf das Grindr seinen Erfolg gründet.
Tatsächlich ist Joel Simkhai gerade tausende Kilometer entfernt. Der 37-Jährige ist zu einem Geschäftstermin nach London verreist. Per Skype ruft er dann an. Das Internet funktioniert bei ihm gerade schlecht, ein wenig irritierend für eine Firma, die auf drahtlose Verbindungen angewiesen ist. Das Bild ist eingefroren, dann ist Joel Simkhai mal nicht zu hören, vielleicht sieht der Grindr-Gründer deshalb leicht unentspannt aus. Kurze schwarze Haare, große Augen, ein gehetzter Blick.
„Ich habe mich immer gefragt, wer in meiner Umgebung so ist wie ich“, erklärt Joel Simkhai seinen Impuls, warum er sich Grindr ausgedacht hat. „Wer in meinem Umkreis ist schwul? Wer hat Lust, sich mit einem Mann zu treffen?“ Zehn Meter hinter der Bürowand könnte ein Kerl hocken, Joel Simkhai würde ihn nicht sehen, dank Grindr kann er ihn nun orten. Wie auf einem Präsentierteller zeigt ihm die App jene Männer, die sich in unmittelbarer Nähe des Benutzers befinden.
Die klassische Idee von „Junge trifft Junge in einer Bar“ hat Simkhai nie gelebt. Als Teenager in einer Kleinstadt im Bundesstaat New York hat er ein paar Freundinnen, so richtig funkt es nicht. Er bemerkt, dass er anders ist. Zu seinem Glück erobert in den späten 90er Jahren gerade eine neue Erfindung die privaten Haushalte: das Internet. Mit 18 Jahren loggt er sich zum ersten Mal in einen schwulen Chatroom bei AOL Online ein, legt sich einen Alias-Namen zu, Dolceguy76 („weil ich im Jahr davor in Italien war“), und lernt Schwule kennen. Ein Spaziergang, ein Kaffee, Sex, alles ist möglich. „Diese Anonymität hat mir gefallen“, sagt Joel Simkhai.
Das Phänomen ist kein schwules. Auch heterosexuelle Menschen beginnen, sich über Chatrooms zu verabreden. Die Hollywood-Romanze „E-Mail für dich“ setzt dem 1998 filmisch ein Denkmal. Meg Ryan und Tom Hanks finden per virtuellen Flirt zusammen, so wie Joel Simkhai seine ersten Freunde online kennengelernt hat. „Was mich immer frustriert hat: Bei den Onlinediensten spielte nie eine Rolle, wo sich jemand befand.“ Da passiert es, dass er sich mit einem Mann gut versteht – und erst bei Frage 16 feststellt, dass dieser 600 Kilometer weit weg lebt.
In den nuller Jahren tauchen erste Onlineplattformen auf, die schon nach Städten geordnet sind. Es ist nun möglich, Fotos hochzuladen, mit der technischen Qualität steigen aber die persönlichen Ansprüche (eine Nachricht könnte so lauten: „Bist du zwischen 1,80 Meter und 1,85 Meter, gut trainiert, blond und keine Nervensäge?“). Der Computer wird zum Vermittler. Menschen mit Internetanschluss, so stellt eine Studie der Stanford University 2012 fest, haben eine größere Wahrscheinlichkeit, einen Partner zu finden, als Menschen ohne.
Joel Simkhai arbeitet inzwischen bei einer New Yorker Firma, die im Netz Magazin-Abonnements verkauft. Er lebt online, arbeitet online, aber auf der Straße ist er offline. Das ändert sich im Juli 2008 mit dem iPhone 3G – dem ersten Smartphone, das GPS-Daten verwendet und Apps von Dritten anbietet. Joel Simkhai denkt über seinen Traum nach, investiert 5000 US-Dollar, beauftragt Programmierer und entwickelt Grindr als Gratis-App. Im März 2009 kommt sie auf den Markt – nun aus Los Angeles.
Aus einem Mann sind nun fünf Millionen Nutzer pro Monat weltweit geworden. Nur auf den Südseeinseln Nauru und Tuvalu hat niemand Grindr-Profile, in 192 anderen Staaten plaudern Männer miteinander, sogar wo Homosexualität verboten ist wie in Uganda, Sri Lanka oder den Emiraten. 177 000 Männer sind in Deutschland angemeldet, 58 000 davon in Berlin. Die meisten Nutzer hat Grindr in London, beinahe 264 000 Männer sind dort aktiv. In Brasilien hat sich während der Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft die Nutzerzahl um 31 Prozent erhöht. Wohl nicht, weil man nur Ergebnisvorhersagen austauschte. Die „Vanity Fair“ schreibt über das Phänomen: „Willkommen in der größten und furchterregendsten Schwulenbar der Welt“.
Das „Kompliment“ hat Simkhai schon oft gehört. Auf Grindr ein Foto zu posten, bedeutet, sich ohne T-Shirt und natürlich mit einem Tipptopp-Oberkörper abzubilden, der Kopf ist optional zu sehen. Es ist das kapitalistische Schaufensterprinzip auf Dating angewendet: Wir tragen unsere Haut zu Markte. „Kritiker werfen uns vor, Menschen auf körperliche Attribute zu reduzieren“, sagt Simkhai. „Ich habe kein Problem damit. Wir sind visuelle Wesen, Männer mehr als Frauen. Wir fällen Entscheidungen, ob wir jemanden attraktiv finden, doch danach, ob er oder sie uns körperlich anspricht. Niemand denkt: Oh, was dieser Kerl wohl für einen tollen Beruf hat! Nein, die erste Reaktion ist, Mensch, sieht der gut aus.“
Joel Simkhai hat seine App ständig offen. Erhält er eine Nachricht, brummt sein Smartphone kurz. Auf dem Profil steht 1,68 Meter, 68 Kilo, weiß. Ob er in einer Beziehung ist? Will er nicht preisgeben. Warum er nichts über sich hineinschreibt? „Was hat da ein Text zu suchen?“ Der Mann ist ein visuelles Wesen.
Lange war das zwanglose Treffen per Smartphone ein Vorrecht der Schwulen. Die haben mit Scruff (für bärtige Kerle) oder Mister (für Ältere) sogar Apps entwickelt, die auf Untergruppen spezialisiert sind. Heterosexuelle sahen angewidert oder neidisch zu. Bis Tinder 2012 gegründet wurde. Hier finden Frauen und Männer zusammen – allerdings weniger direkt. Auf Grindr können Benutzer jeden anderen anschreiben, bei Tinder muss der potenzielle Partner erst einmal zustimmen, damit er Nachrichten bekommen kann. Bei Grindr werden Millionen Fotos in privaten Chats hin- und hergeschickt, ein Nacktbild gehört zum Standard. Tinder ermöglicht es (noch) nicht, Fotos in die Nachrichten zu integrieren. Ein bisschen Romantik soll das erste Date wohl doch noch haben. „Zu langsam“, findet Joel Simkhai. Dass Nachrichten manchmal erst Tage später beantwortet werden, sei Männern nicht schnell genug, glaubt er. „Die wollen das in Echtzeit.“ DTF, NSA, jetzt, hier. Sex. Eben: „Menschen miteinander verbinden.“
Die Liebe kann aus drei Buchstaben erwachsen. Etliche Paare lernen sich über Grindr oder Tinder kennen, vielleicht nur schneller und direkter. Es gibt weniger Blumensträuße am Anfang und mehr Checklisten („Größe? Alter? Haarfarbe?“). Es gibt plötzlich mehr Möglichkeiten – und mehr Verantwortung. Seinen Partner zu betrügen, war nie einfacher. „Das ist nicht die Schuld der Technologie“, sagt Joel Simkhai, „sondern der der Menschen, und wie sie diese Technik benutzen.“ Ist jemand in der Nähe, mit dem man darüber reden kann?
The term ‘homosexuality’ was coined in the late19 th century by an Austrian-born Hungarian psychologist,Karoly Maria Benkert. Although the term is new, discussions aboutsexuality in general, and same-sex attraction in particular, haveoccasioned philosophical discussion ranging from Plato’sSymposium to contemporary queer theory. Since the history ofcultural understandings of same-sex attraction is relevant to thephilosophical issues raised by those understandings, it is necessaryto review briefly some of the social history of homosexuality. Arisingout of this history, at least in the West, is the idea of natural lawand some interpretations of that law as forbidding homosexual sex.References to natural law still play an important role in contemporarydebates about homosexuality in religion, politics, and evencourtrooms. Finally, perhaps the most significant recent social changeinvolving homosexuality is the emergence of the gay liberationmovement in the West. In philosophical circles this movement is, inpart, represented through a rather diverse group of thinkers who aregrouped under the label of queer theory. A central issue raised byqueer theory, which will be discussed below, is whether homosexuality,and hence also heterosexuality and bisexuality, is sociallyconstructed or purely driven by biological forces.
Dating Vs Relationship
When two things share a lot in common, sometimes, it can be tedious differentiating between them. Such is the case of the relationship vs. dating. Almost everyone today seems to confuse dating with being in a relationship because when you are in a relationship with someone, you often go out on dates with them. Again, both dating and relationship in some cases, involve two people enjoying the company of each other and probably having sex. So, since similar activities also take place in both situations, only a few people get to draw the line between them. But here is the bombshell (to some really): being in a relationship and dating are not the same thing. There are lots of differences between them. One surely outlive the other. If you think of a relationship as a universal set, dating is just a subset. In other words, all relationships involve dating but not all dating lead to a relationship. Better to set the records straight by giving the precise definition of these two terms and that is exactly what we shall be doing here.
So, What Is Dating?
By way of definition, dating is the casual process by which you get to know a person or group of people which you may eventually have a romantic relationship with. It’s a friendship kind of a thing between you and the opposite sex (es) you find attractive, and you want to know more. It involves engaging in a number of mutual activities such as seeing a movie together, going for a dinner, attending a seminar or conference together or just simply taking a walk together. Here, there is no commitment, and it is clear to the two of you. You are not even sure of what your feelings to the other are and as such, no deep commitment. If the person you go out on a date with today sees you with another person tomorrow, he or she is not going (or is not supposed to) raise an eyebrow because you haven’t made any commitment to each other yet. It, therefore, goes that dating can take place between you and different people at a time. You’re just having fun and enjoying yourself. In some instances, this „fun“ may not exclude enjoying sex, and though that is one level or degree of closeness, it isn’t a relationship yet. The transition from dating to being in a relationship takes effect when your fun and every other thing you both do and enjoy together becomes exclusive, and you begin to take offense when those things are shared with multiple people.
Now To Being In A Relationship
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You are in a relationship with someone when you both have agreed to it. The idea of casual relationship does not exist. No, that is only obtainable when you guys are dating. Here, you now refer to each other as either boyfriend or girlfriend, and in fact, where a smooth transition is taking place, you may as well consider each other as future partners. That is being in a relationship. Stated differently, being in a relationship with someone would mean you are in a committed romantic association with him or her. And note, a true and healthy relationship is usually monogamous. You don’t go into it with multitudes.
What Dating And Relationship Have In Common
Dating itself is a type of relationship with a lower level of commitment than that of people in a full-fledged relationship. It is a stage, the very first one, of getting to know someone which eventually may or may not lead to a relationship. The two concepts share some similarities which perhaps, is the reason behind many of the misconceptions surrounding it. Some of these are:- 1. Both can be romantic only that the degree of commitment differs. In fact, with some, sex is often involved at both stages. 2. Both involve going out together and doing things in common with parties involved. Even while in a relationship with someone, you still go on dates. 3. In most cases, both involve friendship with someone of the opposite sex to yours. It’s not so common to plan a date or go into a relationship with someone of the same sex as yours. 4. With both concepts, there is a kind of attraction and admiration between parties involved. 5. Both can transit and also come to an end. If you are in a relationship with someone, that can progress to marriage or break up. Also, when dating, you can find the attraction growing into love and as such, moving into a relationship proper. Dating can equally end. So, in this sense, both are similar
Now The Difference
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From the definition of dating and being in a relationship already given, several differences stand out between the two easily confused terms. And here are they:- 1. Dating can involve several people at the same time whereas being in a relationship means you are now focusing on one person. The level of association has now changed from poly to mono. If you’ve once kept dozens of friends, you use to go out with, once you sign in to a relationship with someone, your closeness with those friends would have to be shelved. 2. There is a greater level of commitment to a person you are in a relationship with compared to when you are still doing the dating thing. You know what that means? Exclusivity. Whatever you both did while dating is now reserved for you and it’s not going to be something you want to share with everyone. You no longer sleep around with everyone (if you’ve been doing that) because now, your commitment is to one person 3. Your status in a relationship is not the same as when you were still dating. At the dating stage, the best you can call your partner(s) is/are a friend(s). They are not yet your boy or girlfriends, and you certainly cannot claim they are your future partners. No, that is only obtainable in a relationship. 4. When in a relationship with someone, there is a significant level of trust you give and are expecting from your partner. You feel they owe you their trust and you are equally obliged to give yours. You don’t hold back anything in your life from the person you are in a relationship with because he or she now is your confidant. You share some information about your vision, families, and past events with that person you are in a relationship with, something which would mean going too far in an ordinary dating. 5. The concept of love in its true sense is absent in a dating setting. What you have then is at best, admiration or attraction for each other. Forbid yourself from thinking or saying you love the person you are dating because that would mean an abuse of this concept. The idea of love sets in when you are beginning to withdraw from your many friends and putting your affection which you once distributed to many people on just a person. This takes place only in a relationship setting. Here, you talk about loving your partner because he or she is the only person you want to think about. This love thing makes the romance and fun in a relationship deeper than what you get in a casual dating setting. 6. When you are in a relationship with someone, you both start considering the possibility of a lifelong future together. She starts bringing up the idea of marriage and having a family, and you start giving it a serious thought too. And that’s reasonable because you’ve both come to realize you want to be an entity. Talk about having a family with your date, and he or she is going to laugh you to scorn. It amounts to putting the cart before the horse. It’s simply unreasonable. 7. Dating can be kept secret; relationships cannot. This is so because of the level of commitment and passion in a relationship affair. Your friends would know just the same way your parents would be aware of you both going together. And anything that is known by more than two parties is no longer a secret thing. With dating, you can keep multiple friends with each not getting to know the other, but in a relationship, this is next to impossible. 8. There is usually lots of packaging and pretense in dating many of which are difficult to carry out in a relationship setting. You do all within your power to cover the „ugly“ part of you while dating and the other person is almost viewing you as an angel. But then as you graduate from dating to being in a relationship, both of you now start showing your true color. You start to see „he’s not such a nice man as I thought“ or „I never knew she could be this rude!“ While this is happening is because you both are now enjoying a comfortable level of familiarity which has made you throw away the garment of pretense you’ve been wearing all this while.
Dating precedes most relationships and most likely continues in it, but it isn’t the same as it. A transition has to occur before dating can proceed to a relationship and this transition is usually marked by a greater level of commitment, love, and affection between the two parties. That is what the definition of both concepts has revealed. It is hoped that having gone through this article, you are now better informed as to the correct meaning and usage of these two commonly misused terms. Again, you should be able to determine by now whether you are in a relationship with that guy or girl or you both are just in a casual dating thing by carefully considering the differences highlighted above. Knowing what one is into surely makes a lot of difference in how one does that thing. Hope you’ve been informed?
As has been frequently noted, the ancient Greeks did not have terms orconcepts that correspond to the contemporary dichotomy of‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ (e.g.,Foucault, 1980). There is a wealth of material from ancient Greecepertinent to issues of sexuality, ranging from dialogues of Plato,such as the Symposium, to plays by Aristophanes, and Greekartwork and vases. What follows is a brief description of ancientGreek attitudes, but it is important to recognize that there wasregional variation. For example, in parts of Ionia there were generalstrictures against same-sex eros, while in Elis and Boiotia(e.g., Thebes), it was approved of and even celebrated (cf. Dover,1989; Halperin, 1990).
Probably the most frequent assumption about sexual orientation, atleast by ancient Greek authors, is that persons can respond eroticallyto beauty in either sex. Diogenes Laeurtius, for example, wrote ofAlcibiades, the Athenian general and politician of the 5 thcentury B.C., “in his adolescence he drew away the husbands fromtheir wives, and as a young man the wives from their husbands.”(Quoted in Greenberg, 1988, 144) Some persons were noted for theirexclusive interests in persons of one gender. For example, Alexanderthe Great and the founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, were known fortheir exclusive interest in boys and other men. Such persons, however,are generally portrayed as the exception. Furthermore, the issue ofwhat biological sex one is attracted to is seen as an issue of tasteor preference, rather than as a moral issue. A character inPlutarch’s Erotikos (Dialogue on Love) arguesthat “the noble lover of beauty engages in love wherever he seesexcellence and splendid natural endowment without regard for anydifference in physiological detail” (ibid., 146) just becomes irrelevant “detail” and instead theexcellence in character and beauty is what is most important.
Even though the gender that one was erotically attracted to (at anyspecific time, given the assumption that persons will likely beattracted to persons of both sexes) was not important, other issueswere salient, such as whether one exercised moderation. Statusconcerns were also of the highest importance. Given that only free menhad full status, women and male slaves were not problematic sexualpartners. Sex between freemen, however, was problematic for central distinction in ancient Greek sexual relations was betweentaking an active or insertive role, versus a passive or penetratedone. The passive role was acceptable only for inferiors, such aswomen, slaves, or male youths who were not yet citizens. Hence thecultural ideal of a same-sex relationship was between an older man,probably in his 20s or 30s, known as the erastes, and a boywhose beard had not yet begun to grow, the eromenos orpaidika. In this relationship there was courtship ritual,involving gifts (such as a rooster), and other norms. Theerastes had to show that he had nobler interests in the boy,rather than a purely sexual concern. The boy was not to submit tooeasily, and if pursued by more than one man, was to show discretionand pick the more noble one. There is also evidence that penetrationwas often avoided by having the erastes face his beloved andplace his penis between the thighs of the eromenos, which isknown as intercrural sex. The relationship was to be temporary andshould end upon the boy reaching adulthood (Dover, 1989). To continuein a submissive role even while one should be an equal citizen wasconsidered troubling, although there certainly were many adult malesame-sex relationships that were noted and not strongly the passive role was thus seen as problematic, to be attractedto men was often taken as a sign of masculinity. Greek gods, such asZeus, had stories of same-sex exploits attributed to them, as didother key figures in Greek myth and literature, such as Achilles andHercules. Plato, in the Symposium, argues for an army to becomprised of same-sex lovers. Thebes did form such a regiment, theSacred Band of Thebes, formed of 500 soldiers. They were renowned inthe ancient world for their valor in battle.
Ancient Rome had many parallels to ancient Greece in its understandingof same-sex attraction, and sexual issues more generally. This isespecially true under the Republic. Yet under the Empire, Romansociety slowly became more negative in its views towards sexuality,probably due to social and economic turmoil, even before Christianitybecame influential.
Exactly what attitude the New Testament has towards sexuality ingeneral, and same-sex attraction in particular, is a matter of sharpdebate. John Boswell argues, in his fascinating Christianity,Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, that many passages takentoday as condemnations of homosexuality are more concerned withprostitution, or where same-sex acts are described as“unnatural” the meaning is more akin to ‘out of theordinary’ rather than as immoral (Boswell, 1980, ch.4; see alsoBoswell, 1994). Yet others have criticized, sometimes persuasively,Boswell’s scholarship, arguing that the conventionalcontemporary reading is more plausible (see Greenberg, 1988, ch.5) is clear, however, is that while condemnation of same-sexattraction is marginal to the Gospels and only an intermittent focusin the rest of the New Testament, early Christian church fathers weremuch more outspoken. In their writings there is a horror at any sortof sex, but in a few generations these views eased, in part due nodoubt to practical concerns of recruiting converts. By the fourth andfifth centuries the mainstream Christian view allowed only forprocreative sex.
This viewpoint, that procreative sex within marriage is allowed, whileevery other expression of sexuality is sinful, can be found, forexample, in St. Augustine. This understanding of permissible sexualrelationships leads to a concern with the gender of one’spartner that is not found in previous Greek or Roman views, and itclearly forbids homosexual acts. Soon this attitude, especiallytowards homosexual sex, came to be reflected in Roman Law. InJustinian’s Code, promulgated in 529, persons who engaged inhomosexual sex were to be executed, although those who were repentantcould be spared. Historians agree that the late Roman Empire saw arise in intolerance towards homosexuality, although there were againimportant regional variations.
With the decline of the Roman Empire, and its replacement by variousbarbarian kingdoms, a general tolerance (with the sole exception ofVisigothic Spain) for homosexual acts prevailed. As one prominentscholar puts it, “European secular law contained few measuresagainst homosexuality until the middle of the thirteenthcentury.” (Greenberg, 1988, 260) Even while some Christiantheologians continued to denounce nonprocreative sexuality, includingsame-sex acts, a genre of homophilic literature, especially among theclergy, developed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries (Boswell,1980, chapters 8 and 9).
The latter part of the twelfth through the fourteenth centuries,however, saw a sharp rise in intolerance towards homosexual sex,alongside persecution of Jews, Muslims, heretics, and others. Whilethe causes of this are somewhat unclear, it is likely that increasedclass conflict alongside the Gregorian reform movement in the CatholicChurch were two important factors. The Church itself started to appealto a conception of “nature” as the standard of morality,and drew it in such a way so as to forbid homosexual sex (as well asextramarital sex, nonprocreative sex within marriage, and oftenmasturbation). For example, the first ecumenical council to condemnhomosexual sex, Lateran III of 1179, stated “Whoever shall befound to have committed that incontinence which is againstnature” shall be punished, the severity of which depended uponwhether the transgressor was a cleric or layperson (quoted in Boswell,1980, 277). This appeal to natural law (discussed below) became veryinfluential in the Western tradition. An important point to note,however, is that the key category here is the ‘sodomite,’which differs from the contemporary idea of ‘homosexual’.A sodomite was understood as act-defined, rather than as a type ofperson. Someone who had desires to engage in sodomy, yet did not actupon them, was not a sodomite. Also, persons who engaged inheterosexual sodomy were also sodomites. There are reports of personsbeing burned to death or beheaded for sodomy with a spouse (Greenberg,1988, 277). Finally, a person who had engaged in sodomy, yet who hadrepented of his sin and vowed to never do it again, was no longer asodomite. The gender of one’s partner is again not of decisiveimportance, although some medieval theologians single out same-sexsodomy as the worst type of sexual crime (Crompton, 2003, ch.6).
For the next several centuries in Europe, the laws against homosexualsex were severe in their penalties. Enforcement, however, wasepisodic. In some regions, decades would pass without anyprosecutions. Yet the Dutch, in the 1730s, mounted a harsh anti-sodomycampaign (alongside an anti-Roma pogrom), even using torture toobtain confessions. As many as one hundred men and boys were executedand denied burial (Greenberg, 1988, 313–4). Also, the degree towhich sodomy and same-sex attraction were accepted varied by class,with the middle class taking the most restrictive view, while thearistocracy and nobility often accepted public expressions ofalternative sexualities. At times, even with the risk of severepunishment, same-sex oriented subcultures would flourish in cities,sometimes only to be suppressed by the authorities. In the19 th century there was a significant reduction in the legalpenalties for sodomy. The Napoleonic code decriminalized sodomy, andwith Napoleon’s conquests that Code spread. Furthermore, in manycountries where homosexual sex remained a crime, the general movementat this time away from the death penalty usually meant that sodomy wasremoved from the list of capital offenses.
In the 18 th and 19th centuries an overtlytheological framework no longer dominated the discourse about same-sexattraction. Instead, secular arguments and interpretations becameincreasingly common. Probably the most important secular domain fordiscussions of homosexuality was in medicine, including discourse, in turn, linked up with considerations about the stateand its need for a growing population, good soldiers, and intactfamilies marked by clearly defined gender roles. Doctors were calledin by courts to examine sex crime defendants (Foucault, 1980;Greenberg, 1988). At the same time, the dramatic increase in schoolattendance rates and the average length of time spent in school,reduced transgenerational contact, and hence also the frequency oftransgenerational sex. Same-sex relations between persons of roughlythe same age became the norm.
Clearly the rise in the prestige of medicine resulted in part from theincreasing ability of science to account for natural phenomena on thebasis of mechanistic causation. The application of this viewpoint tohumans led to accounts of sexuality as innate or biologically voluntarism of the medieval understanding of sodomy, thatsodomites chose sin, gave way to the prevailing though contestedmodern notion of homosexuality as a deep, unchosen characteristic ofpersons, regardless of whether they act upon that orientation. Theidea of a ‘latent sodomite’ would not have made sense, yetunder this new view it does make sense to speak of a person as a‘latent homosexual.’ Instead of specific acts defining aperson, as in the medieval view, an entire physical and mental makeup,usually portrayed as somehow defective or pathological, is ascribed tothe modern category of ‘homosexual.’ Although there arehistorical precursors to these ideas (e.g., Aristotle gave aphysiological explanation of passive homosexuality), medicine gavethem greater public exposure and credibility (Greenberg, 1988, ch.15) effects of these ideas cut in conflicting ways. Sincehomosexuality is, by this view, not chosen, it makes less sense tocriminalize it. Persons are not choosing evil acts. Yet persons may beexpressing a diseased or pathological mental state, and hence medicalintervention for a cure is appropriate. Hence doctors, especiallypsychiatrists, campaigned for the repeal or reduction of criminalpenalties for consensual homosexual sodomy, yet intervened to“rehabilitate” homosexuals. They also sought to developtechniques to prevent children from becoming homosexual, for exampleby arguing that childhood masturbation caused homosexuality, hence itmust be closely guarded against.
In the 20 th century sexual roles were redefined once a variety of reasons, premarital intercourse slowly became morecommon and eventually acceptable. With the decline of prohibitionsagainst sex for the sake of pleasure even outside of marriage, itbecame more difficult to argue against gay sex. These trends wereespecially strong in the 1960s, and it was in this context that thegay liberation movement took off. Although gay and lesbian rightsgroups had been around for decades, the low-key approach of theMattachine Society (named after a medieval secret society) and theDaughters of Bilitis had not gained much ground. This changed in theearly morning hours of June 28, 1969, when the patrons of theStonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, rioted after a policeraid. In the aftermath of that event, gay and lesbian groups began toorganize around the country. Gay Democratic clubs were created inevery major city, and one fourth of all college campuses had gay andlesbian groups (Shilts, 1993, ch.28). Large gay urban communities incities from coast to coast became the norm. The American PsychiatricAssociation removed homosexuality from its official listing of mentaldisorders. The increased visibility of gays and lesbians has become apermanent feature of American life despite the two critical setbacksof the AIDS epidemic and an anti-gay backlash (see Berman, 1993, for agood survey). The post-Stonewall era has also seen marked changes inWestern Europe, where the repeal of anti-sodomy laws and legalequality for gays and lesbians has become common. In the 21st century,the legal recognition of same-sex marriage has become widespread.
The increasing acceptance of same-sex relations has prompted newtheoretical debates, such as whether a “post-gay” culturewill emerge due to widespread assimilation of gays and lesbians(Anderson, 2016). Generally what is meant by the term“post-gay” is that if LGBTQ persons have full legal andsocial equality, that level of acceptance makes it so sexualorientation is no longer a defining aspect of one’s identity orsocial position. While it seems unlikely that gay, lesbian, or queerpersons of color, or who live in rural areas, or are otherwise in amarginalized position will achieve such assimilation in theforeseeable future, the debate is still of theoretical interest. Forinstance, post-gay can be conceptualized as either a specificpolitical order, characterized by equality across sexual orientations,or it can be seen as a specific type of identity, where personsunderstand and accept themselves as same-sex oriented but as not inany way defined by that. Post-gay can also be a time, an era marked bywidespread assimilation, or a space, where persons are fully treatedas equals. Some regard the variety of meanings given to the term asevidence of confusion (Kampler and Connell, 2018). A betterunderstanding, however, is that the term is being used to rival some, post-gay marks the culmination of the gay rights movement,which all along, they contend, was an effort to be treated as others, it opens a space where sexual labels can be resisted,renegotiated, and made fluid and non-binary (Coleman-Fountain,2014).
2. Historiographical Debates
Broader currents in society have influenced the ways in which scholarsand activists have approached research into sexuality and same-sexattraction. Some early 20 th century researchers andequality advocates, seeking to vindicate same-sex relations insocieties that disparaged and criminalized it, put forward lists offamous historical figures attracted to persons of the same sex. Suchlists implied a common historical entity underlying sexual attraction,whether one called it ‘inversion’ or‘homosexuality.’ This approach (or perhaps closely relatedfamily of approaches) is commonly called essentialism. Historians andresearchers sympathetic to the gay liberation movement of the late1960s and 1970s produced a number of books that implicitly relied onan essentialist approach. In the 1970s and 1980s John Boswell raisedit to a new level of methodological and historical sophistication,although his position shifted over time to one of virtual agnosticismbetween essentialists and their critics. Crompton’s work (2003)is a notable contemporary example of an essentialist methodology.
Essentialists claim that categories of sexual attraction are observedrather than created. For example, while ancient Greece did not haveterms that correspond to the heterosexual/homosexual division, personsdid note men who were only attracted to person of a specific sex,hence the lack of terminology need not be taken as evidence of a lackof continuity in categories. Through history and across cultures thereare consistent features, albeit with meaningful variety over time andspace, in sexual attraction to the point that it makes sense of speakof specific sexual orientations. According to this view, homosexualityis a specific, natural kind rather than a cultural or historicalproduct. Essentialists allow that there are cultural differences inhow homosexuality is expressed and interpreted, but they emphasizethat this does not prevent it from being a universal category of humansexual expression.
In contrast, in the 1970s and since a number of researchers, ofteninfluenced by Mary McIntosh or Michel Foucault, argued that classrelations, the human sciences, and other historically constructedforces create sexual categories and the personal identities associatedwith them. For advocates of this view, such as David Halperin, how sexis organized in a given cultural and historical setting is irreduciblyparticular (Halperin, 2002). The emphasis on the social creation ofsexual experience and expression led to the labeling of the viewpointas social constructionism, although more recently several of itsproponents have preferred the term ‘historicism.’ Thushomosexuality, as a specific sexual construction, is best understoodas a solely modern, Western concept and role. Prior to the developmentof this construction, persons were not really ‘homosexual’even when they were only attracted to persons of the same sex. Thedifferences between, say, ancient Greece, with its emphasis onpederasty, role in the sex act, and social status, and thecontemporary Western role of ‘gay’ or‘homosexual’ are simply too great to collapse into onecategory.
In a manner closely related to the claims of queer theory, discussedbelow, social constructionists argue that specific social constructsproduce sexual ways of being. There is no given mode of sexuality thatis independent of culture; even the concept and experience of sexualorientation itself are products of history. For advocates of thisview, the range of historical sexual diversity, and the fluidity ofhuman possibility, is simply too varied to be adequately captured byany specific conceptual scheme.
There is a significant political dimension to this seemingly abstracthistoriographical debate. Social constructionists argue thatessentialism is the weaker position politically for at least tworeasons. First, by accepting a basic heterosexual/homosexualorganizing dichotomy, essentialism wrongly concedes thatheterosexuality is the norm and that homosexuality is, strictlyspeaking, abnormal and the basis for a permanent minority. Second,social constructionists argue that an important goal of historicalinvestigations should be to put into question contemporary organizingschemas about sexuality. The acceptance of the contemporaryheterosexual/homosexual dichotomy is conservative, perhaps evenreactionary, and forecloses the exploration of new possibilities.(There are related queer theory criticisms of the essentialistposition, discussed below.) In contrast, essentialists argue that ahistoricist approach forecloses the very possibility of a ‘gayhistory.’ Instead, the field of investigation becomes othersocial forces and how they ‘produce’ a distinct form orforms of sexuality. Only an essentialist approach can maintain theproject of gay history, and minority histories in general, as a forcefor liberation.
3. Natural Law
Today natural law theory offers the most common intellectual defensefor differential treatment of gays and lesbians, and as such it meritsattention. The development of natural law is a long and verycomplicated story. A reasonable place to begin is with the dialoguesof Plato, for this is where some of the central ideas are firstarticulated, and, significantly enough, are immediately applied to thesexual domain. For the Sophists, the human world is a realm ofconvention and change, rather than of unchanging moral truth. Plato,in contrast, argued that unchanging truths underpin the flux of thematerial world. Reality, including eternal moral truths, is a matterof phusis. Even though there is clearly a great degree ofvariety in conventions from one city to another (something ancientGreeks became increasingly aware of), there is still an unwrittenstandard, or law, that humans should live under.
In the Laws, Plato applies the idea of a fixed, natural lawto sex, and takes a much harsher line than he does in theSymposium or the Phraedrus. In Book One he writesabout how opposite-sex sex acts cause pleasure by nature, whilesame-sex sexuality is “unnatural” (636c). In Book Eight,the Athenian speaker considers how to have legislation banninghomosexual acts, masturbation, and illegitimate procreative sex widelyaccepted. He then states that this law is according to nature(838–839d). Probably the best way of understanding Plato’sdiscussion here is in the context of his overall concerns with theappetitive part of the soul and how best to control it. Plato clearlysees same-sex passions as especially strong, and hence particularlyproblematic, although in the Symposium that erotic attractionis presented as potentially being a catalyst for a life of philosophy,rather than base sensuality (Cf. Dover, 1989, 153–170; Nussbaum,1999, esp. chapter 12).
Other figures played important roles in the development of natural lawtheory. Aristotle, with his emphasis upon reason as the distinctivehuman function, and the Stoics, with their emphasis upon human beingsas a part of the natural order of the cosmos, both helped to shape thenatural law perspective which says that “True law is rightreason in agreement with nature,” as Cicero put it. Aristotle,in his approach, did allow for change to occur according to nature,and therefore the way that natural law is embodied could itself changewith time, which was an idea Aquinas later incorporated into his ownnatural law theory. Aristotle did not write extensively about sexualissues, since he was less concerned with the appetites than Plato.Probably the best reconstruction of his views places him in mainstreamGreek society as outlined above; his main concern is with an activeversus a passive role, with only the latter problematic for those whoeither are or will become citizens. Zeno, the founder of Stoicism,was, according to his contemporaries, only attracted to men, and histhought did not have prohibitions against same-sex sexuality. Incontrast, Cicero, a later Stoic, was dismissive about sexuality ingeneral, with some harsher remarks towards same-sex pursuits (Cicero,1966, 407-415).
The most influential formulation of natural law theory was made byThomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. Integrating an Aristotelianapproach with Christian theology, Aquinas emphasized the centrality ofcertain human goods, including marriage and procreation. While Aquinasdid not write much about same-sex sexual relations, he did write atlength about various sex acts as sins. For Aquinas, sexuality that waswithin the bounds of marriage and which helped to furtherwhat he saw as the distinctive goods of marriage, mainly love,companionship, and legitimate offspring, was permissible, and evengood. Aquinas did not argue that procreation was a necessary part ofmoral or just sex; married couples could enjoy sex without the motiveof having children, and sex in marriages where one or both partners issterile (perhaps because the woman is postmenopausal) is alsopotentially just (given a motive of expressing love). So farAquinas’ view actually need not rule out homosexual sex. Forexample, a Thomist could embrace same-sex marriage, and then apply thesame reasoning, simply seeing the couple as a reproductively sterile,yet still fully loving and companionate union.
Aquinas, in a significant move, adds a requirement that for any givensex act to be moral it must be of a generative kind. The only way thatthis can be achieved is via vaginal intercourse. That is, since onlythe emission of semen in a vagina can result in natural reproduction,only sex acts of that type are generative, even if a given sex actdoes not lead to reproduction, and even if it is impossible due toinfertility. The consequence of this addition is to rule out thepossibility, of course, that homosexual sex could ever be moral (evenif done within a loving marriage), in addition to forbidding anynon-vaginal sex for opposite-sex married couples. What is thejustification for this important addition? This question is made allthe more pressing in that Aquinas does allow that how broad moralrules apply to individuals may vary considerably, since the nature ofpersons also varies to some extent. That is, since Aquinas allows thatindividual natures vary, one could simply argue that one is, bynature, emotionally and physically attracted to persons of one’sown gender, and hence to pursue same-sex relationships is‘natural’ (Sullivan, 1995). Unfortunately, Aquinas doesnot spell out a justification for this generative requirement.
More recent natural law theorists, however, have presented a couple ofdifferent lines of defense for Aquinas’ ‘generativetype’ requirement. The first is that sex acts that involveeither homosexuality, heterosexual sodomy, or which use contraception,frustrate the purpose of the sex organs, which is reproductive. Thisargument, often called the ‘perverted faculty argument’,is perhaps implicit in Aquinas. It has, however, come in for sharpattack (see Weitham, 1997), and the best recent defenders of aThomistic natural law approach are attempting to move beyond it (e.g.,George, 1999a, dismisses the argument). If their arguments fail, ofcourse, they must allow that some homosexual sex acts are morallypermissible (even positively good), although they would still haveresources with which to argue against casual gay (and straight)sex.
Although the specifics of the second sort of argument offered byvarious contemporary natural law theorists vary, they possess commonelements(Finnis, 1994; George, 1999a). As Thomists, their argumentrests largely upon an account of human goods. The two most importantfor the argument against homosexual sex (though not againsthomosexuality as an orientation which is not acted upon, and hence inthis they follow official Catholic doctrine; see George, 1999a, ch.15)are personal integration and marriage. Personal integration, in thisview, is the idea that humans, as agents, need to have integrationbetween their intentions as agents and their embodied selves. Thus, touse one’s or another’s body as a mere means to one’sown pleasure, as they argue happens with masturbation, causes‘dis-integration’ of the self. That is, one’sintention then is just to use a body (one’s own oranother’s) as a mere means to the end of pleasure, and thisdetracts from personal integration. Yet one could easily reply thattwo persons of the same sex engaging in sexual union does notnecessarily imply any sort of ‘use’ of the other as a meremeans to one’s own pleasure. Hence, natural law theoristsrespond that sexual union in the context of the realization ofmarriage as an important human good is the only permissible expressionof sexuality. Yet this argument requires drawing how marriage is animportant good in a very particular way, since it puts procreation atthe center of marriage as its “natural fulfillment”(George, 1999a, 168). Natural law theorists, if they want to supporttheir objection to homosexual sex, have to emphasize procreation. If,for example, they were to place love and mutual support for humanflourishing at the center, it is clear that many same-sex coupleswould meet this standard. Hence their sexual acts would be morallyjust.
There are, however, several objections that are made against thisaccount of marriage as a central human good. One is that by placingprocreation as the ‘natural fulfillment’ of marriage,sterile marriages are thereby denigrated. Sex in an opposite-sexmarriage where the partners know that one or both of them are sterileis not done for procreation. Yet surely it is not wrong. Why, then, ishomosexual sex in the same context (a long-term companionate union)wrong (Macedo, 1995)? The natural law rejoinder is that while vaginalintercourse is a potentially procreative sex act, considered in itself(though admitting the possibility that it may be impossible for aparticular couple), oral and anal sex acts are never potentiallyprocreative, whether heterosexual or homosexual (George, 1999a). Butis this biological distinction also morally relevant, and in themanner that natural law theorists assume? Natural law theorists, intheir discussions of these issues, seem to waver. On the one hand,they want to defend an ideal of marriage as a loving union wherein twopersons are committed to their mutual flourishing, and where sex is acomplement to that ideal. Yet that opens the possibility ofpermissible gay sex, or heterosexual sodomy, both of which they wantto oppose. So they then defend an account of sexuality which seemscrudely reductive, emphasizing procreation to the point whereliterally a male orgasm anywhere except in the vagina of one’sloving spouse is impermissible. Then, when accused of being reductive,they move back to the broader ideal of marriage.
Natural law theory, at present, has made significant concessions tomainstream liberal thought. In contrast certainly to its medievalformulation, most contemporary natural law theorists argue for limitedgovernmental power, and do not believe that the state has an interestin attempting to prevent all moral wrongdoing. Still, most proponentsof the “New Natural Law Theory” do argue againsthomosexuality, and against legal protections for gays and lesbians interms of employment and housing, even to the point of serving asexpert witnesses in court cases or helping in the writing ofamicus curae briefs. They also argue against same sexmarriage (Bradley, 2001; George, 1999b). There have been someattempts, however, to reconcile natural law theory and homosexuality(see, for example, Lago, 2018; Goldstein, 2011). While maintaining thecentral aspects of natural law theory and its account of basic humangoods, they typically either argue that marriage itself is not a basicgood (Lago), or that the sort of good it is, when understood in a lessnarrow, dogmatic fashion, is such that same-sex couples can enjoy of the theoretical interest in these arguments is that they allowfor a moral evaluation of sexuality, still requiring it to realize thebasic good of friendship if it is to be permissible, while avoidingwhat seem to be the various problematic aspects of contemporarynatural law theorists’ denigration of same-sex sexuality in anyform.
4. Queer Theory and the Social Construction of Sexuality
With the rise of the gay liberation movement in the post-Stonewallera, overtly gay and lesbian perspectives began to be put forward inpolitics, philosophy and literary theory. Initially these often wereovertly linked to feminist analyses of patriarchy (e.g., Rich, 1980)or other, earlier approaches to theory. Yet in the late 1980s andearly 1990s queer theory was developed, although there are obviouslyimportant antecedents which make it difficult to date it are a number of ways in which queer theory differed from earliergay liberation theory, but an important initial difference becomesapparent once we examine the reasons for opting for employing the term‘queer’ as opposed to ‘gay and lesbian.’ Someversions of, for example, lesbian theory portrayed the essence oflesbian identity and sexuality in very specific terms:non-hierarchical, consensual, and, specifically in terms of sexuality,as not necessarily focused upon genitalia (e.g., Faderman, 1985).Lesbians arguing from this framework, for example, could very wellcriticize natural law theorists as inscribing into the very “lawof nature” an essentially masculine sexuality, focused upon thegenitals, penetration, and the status of the male orgasm (natural lawtheorists rarely mention female orgasms).
This approach, based upon characterizations of ‘lesbian’and ‘gay’ identity and sexuality, however, suffered fromthree difficulties. First, it appeared even though the goal was tocritique a heterosexist regime for its exclusion and marginalizationof those whose sexuality is different, any specific or“essentialist” account of gay or lesbian sexuality had thesame effect. Sticking with the example used above, of a specificconceptualization of lesbian identity, it denigrates women who aresexually and emotionally attracted to other women, yet who do not fitthe description. Sado-masochists and butch/fem lesbians arguably donot fit this ideal of ‘equality’ offered. A second problemwas that by placing such an emphasis upon the gender of one’ssexual partner(s), other possible important sources of identity aremarginalized, such as race and ethnicity. What may be of utmostimportance, for example, for a black lesbian is her lesbianism, ratherthan her race. Many gays and lesbians of color attacked this approach,accusing it of re-inscribing an essentially white identity into theheart of gay or lesbian identity (Jagose, 1996).
The third and final problem for the gay liberationist approach wasthat it often took this category of ‘identity’ itself asunproblematic and unhistorical. Such a view, however, largely becauseof arguments developed within poststructuralism, seemed increasinglyuntenable. The key figure in the attack upon identity as ahistoricalis Michel Foucault. In a series of works he set out to analyze thehistory of sexuality from ancient Greece to the modern era (1980,1985, 1986). Although the project was tragically cut short by hisdeath in 1984, from complications arising from AIDS, Foucaultarticulated how profoundly understandings of sexuality can vary acrosstime and space, and his arguments have proven very influential in gayand lesbian theorizing in general, and queer theory in particular(Spargo, 1999; Stychin, 2005).
One of the reasons for the historical review above is that it helps togive some background for understanding the claim that sexuality issocially constructed, rather than given by nature. Moreover, in orderto not prejudge the issue of social constructionism versusessentialism, I avoided applying the term ‘homosexual’ tothe ancient or medieval eras. In ancient Greece the gender ofone’s partner(s) was not important, but instead whether one tookthe active or passive role. In the medieval view, a‘sodomite’ was a person who succumbed to temptation andengaged in certain non-procreative sex acts. Although the gender ofthe partner was more important in the medieval than in the ancientview, the broader theological framework placed the emphasis upon a sinversus refraining-from-sin dichotomy. With the rise of the notion of‘homosexuality’ in the modern era, a person is placed intoa specific category even if one does not act upon those is difficult to perceive a common, natural sexuality expressedacross these three very different cultures. The social constructionistcontention is that there is no ‘natural’ sexuality; allsexual understandings are constructed within and mediated by culturalunderstandings. The examples can be pushed much further byincorporating anthropological data outside of the Western tradition(Halperin, 1990; Greenberg, 1988). Yet even within the narrowercontext offered here, the differences between them are striking. Theassumption in ancient Greece was that men (less is known about Greekattitudes towards women) can respond erotically to either sex, and thevast majority of men who engaged in same-sex relationships were alsomarried (or would later become married). Yet the contemporaryunderstanding of homosexuality divides the sexual domain in two,heterosexual and homosexual, and most heterosexuals cannot responderotically to their own sex.
In saying that sexuality is a social construct, these theorists arenot saying that these understandings are not real. Since persons arealso constructs of their culture (in this view), we are made intothose categories. Hence today persons of course understand themselvesas straight or gay (or perhaps bisexual), and it is very difficult tostep outside of these categories, even once one comes to see them asthe historical constructs they are.
Gay and lesbian theory was thus faced with three significant problems,all of which involved difficulties with the notion of‘identity.’ Queer theory arose in large part as an attemptto overcome them. How queer theory does so can be seen by looking atthe term ‘queer’ itself. In contrast to gay or lesbian,‘queer,’ it is argued, does not refer to an essence,whether of a sexual nature or not. Instead it is purely relational,standing as an undefined term that gets its meaning precisely by beingthat which is outside of the norm, however that norm itself may bedefined. As one of the most articulate queer theorists puts it:“Queer is … whatever is at odds with the normal,the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular towhich it necessarily refers. It is an identity without anessence” (Halperin, 1995, 62, original emphasis). By lacking anyessence, queer does not marginalize those whose sexuality is outsideof any gay or lesbian norm, such as sado-masochists. Since specificconceptualizations of sexuality are avoided, and hence not put at thecenter of any definition of queer, it allows more freedom forself-identification for, say, black lesbians to identify as much ormore with their race (or any other trait, such as involvement in an S& M subculture) than with lesbianism. Finally, it incorporates theinsights of poststructuralism about the difficulties in ascribing anyessence or non-historical aspect to identity.
This central move by queer theorists, the claim that the categoriesthrough which identity is understood are all social constructs ratherthan given to us by nature, opens up a number of analyticalpossibilities. For example, queer theorists examine how fundamentalnotions of gender and sex which seem so natural and self-evident topersons in the modern West are in fact constructed and reinforcedthrough everyday actions, and that this occurs in ways that privilegeheterosexuality (Butler, 1990, 1993). Also examined are medicalcategories, such as ‘inverts’ and intersexuality, whichare themselves socially constructed (Fausto-Sterling, 2000, is anerudite example of this, although she is not ultimately a queertheorist). Others examine how language and especially divisionsbetween what is said and what is not said, corresponding to thedichotomy between ‘closeted’ and ‘out,’especially in regards to the modern division ofheterosexual/homosexual, structure much of modern thought. That is, itis argued that when we look at dichotomies such as natural/artificial,or masculine/feminine, we find in the background an implicit relianceupon a very recent, and arbitrary, understanding of the sexual worldas split into two species (Sedgwick, 1990). The fluidity of categoriescreated through queer theory even opens the possibility of new sortsof histories that examine previously silent types of affections andrelationships (Carter, 2005).
Another critical perspective opened up by a queer approach, althoughcertainly implicit in those just referred to, is especially most anti-gay and lesbian arguments rely upon the allegednaturalness of heterosexuality, queer theorists attempt to show howthese categories are themselves deeply social constructs. An examplehelps to illustrate the approach. In an essay against gay marriage,chosen because it is very representative, James Q. Wilson (1996)contends that gay men have a “great tendency” to bepromiscuous. In contrast, he puts forward loving, monogamous marriageas the natural condition of heterosexuality. Heterosexuality, in hisargument, is an odd combination of something completely natural yetsimultaneously endangered. One is born straight, yet this naturalcondition can be subverted by such things as the presence of gaycouples, gay teachers, or even excessive talk about ;s argument requires a radical disjunction betweenheterosexuality and homosexuality. If gayness is radically different,it is legitimate to suppress it. Wilson has the courage to beforthright about this element of his argument; he comes out against“the political imposition of tolerance” towards gays andlesbians (Wilson, 1996, 35).
It is a common move in queer theory to bracket, at least temporarily,issues of truth and falsity (Halperin, 1995). Instead, the analysisfocuses on the social function of discourse. Questions of who countsas an expert and why, and concerns about the effects of theexpert’s discourse are given equal status to questions of theverity of what is said. This approach reveals that hidden underneathWilson’s (and other anti-gay) work is an importantepistemological move. Since heterosexuality is the natural condition,it is a place that is spoken from but not inquired into. In contrast,homosexuality is the aberration and hence it needs to be studied butit is not an authoritative place from which one can speak. By virtueof this heterosexual privilege, Wilson is allowed the voice of theimpartial, fair-minded expert. Yet, as the history section aboveshows, there are striking discontinuities in understandings ofsexuality, and this is true to the point that, according to queertheorists, we should not think of sexuality as having any particularnature at all. Through undoing our infatuation with any specificconception of sexuality, the queer theorist opens space formarginalized forms of sexuality, and thus of ways of being moregenerally.
The insistence that we must investigate the ways in which categoriessuch as sexuality and orientation are created and given power throughscience and other cultural mechanisms has made queer theory appealingto scholars in a variety of disciplines. Historians and sociologistshave drawn on it, which is perhaps unsurprising given the role ofhistorical claims about the social construction of sexuality. Queertheory has been especially influential in literary studies andfeminist theory, even though the dividing lines between the latter andqueer thinking is contested (see Jagose, 2009; Marinucci, 2010). Oneof the most prominent scholars working in the area of gay and lesbianissues in constitutional law has also drawn on queer theory to advancehis interrogation of the ways that US law privileges heterosexuality(Eskridge, 1999). Scholars in postcolonial and racial analyses,ethnography, American studies, and other fields have drawn on theconceptual tools provided by queer theory.
Despite its roots in postmodernism and Foucault’s work inparticular, queer theory’s reception in France was initiallyhostile (see Eribon, 2004). The core texts from the first‘wave’ of queer theory, such as Judith Butler’s andEve Sedgwick’s central works, were slow to appear in Frenchtranslation, not coming out until a decade and a half after theiroriginal publication. Doubtless the French republicanself-understanding, which is universalist and often hostile tomovements that are multicultural in their bent, was a factor in theslow and often strenuously resisted importation of queer theoreticalinsights. Similarly, queer theory has also been on the margins inGerman philosophy and political philosophy. In sum, it is fair to saythat queer theory has had a greater impact in the Anglo-Americanworld.
Queer theory, however, has been criticized in a myriad of ways(Jagose, 1996). One set of criticisms comes from theorists who aresympathetic to gay liberation conceived as a project of radical socialchange. An initial criticism is that precisely because‘queer’ does not refer to any specific sexual status orgender object choice, for example Halperin (1995) allows that straightpersons may be ‘queer,’ it robs gays and lesbians of thedistinctiveness of what makes them marginal. It desexualizes identity,when the issue is precisely about a sexual identity (Jagose, 1996). Arelated criticism is that queer theory, since it refuses any essenceor reference to standard ideas of normality, cannot make crucialdistinctions. For example, queer theorists usually argue that one ofthe advantages of the term ‘queer’ is that it therebyincludes transsexuals, sado-masochists, and other marginalizedsexualities. How far does this extend? Is transgenerational sex (e.g.,pedophilia) permissible? Are there any limits upon the forms ofacceptable sado-masochism or fetishism? While some queer theoristsspecifically disallow pedophilia, it is an open question whether thetheory has the resources to support such a distinction. Furthermore,some queer theorists overtly refuse to rule out pedophiles as‘queer’ (Halperin, 1995, 62) Another criticism is thatqueer theory, in part because it typically has recourse to a verytechnical jargon, is written by a narrow elite for that narrow is therefore class biased and also, in practice, only reallyreferred to at universities and colleges (Malinowitz, 1993).
Queer theory is also criticized by those who reject the desirabilityof radical social change. For example, centrist and conservative gaysand lesbians have criticized a queer approach by arguing that it willbe “disastrously counter-productive” (Bawer, 1996, xii) ‘queer’ keeps its connotation of something perverse andat odds with mainstream society, which is precisely what most queertheorists want, it would seem to only validate the attacks upon gaysand lesbians made by conservatives. Sullivan (1996) also criticizesqueer theorists for relying upon Foucault’s account of power,which he argues does not allow for meaningful resistance. It seemslikely, however, that Sullivan’s understanding ofFoucault’s notions of power and resistance is misguided.
The debates about homosexuality, in part because they often involvepublic policy and legal issues, tend to be sharply polarized. Thosemost concerned with homosexuality, positively or negatively, are alsothose most engaged, with natural law theorists arguing for gays andlesbians having a reduced legal status, and queer theorists engaged incritique and deconstruction of what they see as a heterosexist the two do not talk much to one another, but rather ignore or talkpast one another. There are some theorists in the middle. For example,Michael Sandel takes an Aristotelian approach from which he arguesthat gay and lesbian relationships can realize the same goods thatheterosexual relationships do (Sandel, 1995). He largely shares theaccount of important human goods that natural law theorists have, yetin his evaluation of the worth of same-sex relationships, he isclearly sympathetic to gay and lesbian concerns. Similarly, BruceBawer (1993) and Andrew Sullivan (1995) have written eloquent defensesof full legal equality for gays and lesbians, including marriagerights. Yet neither argue for any systematic reform of broaderAmerican culture or politics. In this they are essentiallyconservative. Therefore, rather unsurprisingly, these centrists areattacked from both sides. Sullivan, for example, has been criticizedat length both by queer theorists (e.g., Phelan, 2001) and natural lawtheorists (e.g., George, 1999a).
Yet as the foregoing also clearly shows, the policy and legal debatessurrounding homosexuality involve fundamental issues of morality andjustice. Perhaps most centrally of all, they cut to issues of personalidentity and self-definition. Hence there is another, and even deeper,set of reasons for the polarization that marks these debates.
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